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The Pamphlet Collection of Sir Robert Stout: Volume 39

[Reorganisation of English Institutions]

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I have chosen a formidable title for my lecture this evening. I hope I shall not weary you. I cannot be short and summary on so great a subject. I would rather speak than read: but I then should not be concise enough. I shall have to set forth the greatness of existing evils, in order to show the necessity of new organs. I beg you all to remember that when skill in a workman makes up for bad tools, it is at a vast expense of labor. The superiority of civilised to barbarian work turns chiefly on superior tools. Every prudent manufacturer seeks for the best machinery; and augurs that what is simple and old-fashioned ill competes with what is new and more elaborate: so too is it in political organisation. For the permanent welfare of a population which grows in numbers and complexity, its social and political organs must also grow—that is, must become more numerous and complex, however simple in principle.

But since William III. became king of England, the Parliaments of Scotland and Ireland have been annihilated, and no subsidiary organs have replaced them. For 150 years we were so busy with wars, Continental or American, that our domestic institutions went into decay; India at the same time fell into our embrace—an enormous incubus. To subserve base intrigue, our boroughs were crippled and degraded; nor have they ever recovered their ancient powers. Parliament meanwhile is immensely aggrandised and immensely overworked. A debt of 800 millions was contracted by wars, and very little of it has been paid off in the last 60 years, though full 40 of these have been years of great prosperity. Until centralisation is admitted, permanent debt is not incurred.

Our population is four times as great as William III. knew it; yet the people are more than ever divorced from the soil and cramped into towns. Notoriously during war our Parliament is incapable of domestic reform. Lord John Russell, page 4 with actual tears in his eyes, laid aside his intended Reform Bill when he saw the Russian war impending. No wonder-then, that our warlike period of a century and a half under a dominant Parliament was ruinous to our social state. Since the peace with France, serious efforts have been made for reform in detail, especially in repealing laws which ought never to have been enacted; vast efforts also to obtain a miserably small amount of organic reform. Things might be far worse; yet looking to the intelligence of the age, the advances of foreign nations and the energy of our own people, very many think that things might be far better; and therefore ought to be. But I add, our dangers from India and Asia are great and ever increasing; yet Parliament is unhelpful, and Ministries postpone everything that can be postponed. No great move seems possible, except after hideous calamity. Can this be a wisely ordered Constitution?

The reforms carried by Lord Grey in 1832, by Mr Disraeli in 1867, have been exaggerated to the imagination by the long struggle needed to get them. Lord Grey destroyed many rotten boroughs. Good; but the chief positive change in each case was to extend the Parliamentary suffrage to new electors. Even so, the extension is very incomplete. The peasants have no [unclear: vot], nor have wealthy and intelligent women; and when it is proposed to admit peasant householders, Whigs as well as Tories see grave objections; nor can I blame them. The last extension of the suffrage has hitherto done that which was predicted—it has virtually sold us into the hands of the richest men. Even the largest of the new constituencies consider chiefly who are their most liberal neighbours—liberality being the virtue which common minds best understand: hence the local rich, if ambitious enough to compete, gain the elections prevalently; and this makes some of the judges look askance on liberality. To have built almshouses or to have distributed coals is a highly suspicious act: it may soon be accounted virtual bribery if candidacy follow. Indiscriminate generosity may become a crime, even when it is unconditional and without political professions. If we were to extend household suffrage to the rural districts, elections must be still more expensive. Already it is only by care exception that a man of very modest income, however independent, can aspire to sit in Parliament. Mean while the suffrage is of little value to us, if among several candidates not one excites in us a particle of enthusiasm.

The mode also of taking votes is fundamentally vicious, and gives scope to mischievous intrigue. If one seat is competed for by three candidates A, B, C, of whom A and B are page 5 alike far more acceptable to the constituency than C, yet by the splitting of votes between A and B perhaps C is elected, though he would be rejected decisively, if the question were proposed, pure and simple, 'Will you have C?' The system of plumpers, when there are two candidates, equally fosters intrigue and uncertainty. The only plain and fair way is to divide the constituencies so that each may have but one representative, and then make them vote for or against each candidate separately. Whichever of the candidates has the greatest number of affirmative votes is evidently the least unacceptable to the constituency.

To disfranchise all because some have been bribed is truly wonderful, when the pure have no power whatever to restrain the impure. To unseat a member because an ardent friend or even agent has bribed, exposes him to ejection by a secret enemy who pretends friendship. Surely it needs to be shown that the candidate connived, else it suffices to strike off from his list the number of votes illegally won. But I shall, before I end, suggest a far shorter and more effectual remedy for all the evils of our Parliamentary elections.

Probably all of us agree that the nation collectively has a right to the best government, legislative and executive, which the intelligence of the age can afford; also, that only when Power or Privilege conduces to good government ought Power or Privilege to be held by individuals or classes. These are among the Axioms from which I reason. Yet since the word Privilege, in a lecture on Organic Reform, may suggest to you the House of Lords, I at once drop a few words on that topic. I have very long believed that that House ought to be reformed, and I have more than once printed a scheme for so reforming it, that England may become proud of the House. But, whatever the cause, I find English Reformers positively determined not to touch the topic. Therefore I have resolved this evening to omit it. Yet, before I close, I intend to make one brief remark on this subject.

In order to obtain the best legislation which the intelligence of the age admits, the first requisite is, that intelligent, upright, wise men be elected; next, that they shall legislate with fresh and clear minds, not wearied out with overwork, not distracted by topics too numerous, not heated by wine, not sleepy from the hour of the night, not hurried by the whipper-in of the party. Nay, how is any party influence consistent with the solemn duty of a legislator? He does not, indeed, page 6 like a juryman, take oath to give a true verdict; yet he is not less urgently bound in conscience to vote for the right and the just. The juryman's unjust verdict may make a single life or a whole family miserable: a bad law, such as very many of our laws have been, may ruin thousands of families, and worse, a bad vote of Parliament may entail a horrible war. How any member of Parliament can regard himself conscientiously pledged to vote with a party I never could understand. A right organisation of the United Kingdom would destroy Party Legislation; but, alas! Party Legislation, under the specious name of Parliamentary Government, is exactly the thing which our existing Parties glorify, and uphold as the essence of English wisdom. None of the Reforms hitherto put forward touch or pretend to touch, this cardinal mischief.

As a broad basis, to justify a large change, you most allow me to set forth at some length numerous undeniable facts.

The business which, session by session, comes before Parliament, is overwhelming in magnitude. Every year, from mere want of time, numbers of half-advanced bills are arrested, with much labour and expense lost, often with much hope disappointed; hence the phrase, Slaughter of the Innocents, has been stereotyped. Long hours of talk are given to a few measures which excite party zeal, or concern the pecuniary interests of the powerful, and but scant time remains, in which other measures are scuffled by, with very insufficient debate. This is no accident; it cannot be called an abuse: it inheres in the routine of the system. As a natural result also, measures of the utmost importance are decided by a late vote—even after midnight—and in a thin house.

Attendance of members is not compulsory. Forty suffice to constitute a house. Forty! say one-sixteenth part of the whole. Indeed, if there are but twenty, and they choose to connive, then no one demands that the House be counted; so that any number, however few, can pass valid laws—even penal laws—affecting our liberty and our honour; and the thing is done—it is no mere possibility. Penal laws are thus made, and whatever indignation they cause, yet, once passed by trickery, they are very difficult to repeal. Numbers of Bills become law unknown to a majority of the House; indeed, the topics on which the members have to vote are so various that few can possibly understand them. This reconciles so very many to vote as a whipper-in requests them.

The Acts are called laws, but most of them are administrative edicts, setting forth, not broad clear principles, but numerous minute details, very difficult to grasp collectively and page 7 appreciate. Instead of all citizens knowing the laws which they have to obey, it is an arduous and special study to know just those which are most needed. The Acts are often of immense length; some have two hundred or two hundred and fifty clauses, and fill twenty or thirty folio pages. Amendments introduced into a Bill are apt so to mar its unity that the judges themselves fail to understand it when it comes forth as an Act. Hence nothing is commoner than Acts to amend Acts. Who can deny that a grave internal reform in the procedure of Parliament is needed?

An internal organisation used by some Parliaments would much lessen these evils. If the House established standing committees for the leading subjects, selecting each committee and its chairman for special acquaintance with the questions concerned, every measure which is allowed a first reading might be referred to the appropriate committee, who would lay before Parliament a report with reasons. After that, discussion would be more concise and more profitable. The chairmen of committees would virtually superintend, as ministers are now expected to do.

This perhaps is precisely the reason why nothing of the sort is proposed. Ministers covet the credit of conducting legislation, as political capital and as a means of patronage. Standing Committees, appointed without reference to party, would spoil their party schemes. Permanent able chairmen would check their ambition disagreeably.

But here I come to another and a very great grievance—the fact that executive ministers have any legislative place at all.

To unite executive, legislative, and judicial power, is the definition of the most complete despotism, such as in the worst times of India or Rome.

The Turkish Sultan does not claim judicial nor yet legislative power. An Arab Chieftain accepts the customs of his tribe as a fact, and does not dream of legislating, though he is at once administrator and judge.

The qualities which make an able administrator in the Executive Government are so different from those needed by a Legislator in. a popular assembly, that they can rarely be united In the same man. Our system excludes even the ablest man from our ministry, unless he has (what is called) a "power of debate and of reply," to which readiness, fluency, and ill-nature signally contribute.

But the deepest reason against this plurality of functions is, that the duties are essentially inconsistent. The elected legislator owes candour and openness to his constituents, but the page 8 minister is pledged to secrecy. He has undertaken duties to his colleagues which forbid freedom and truthfulness in Parliamentary discussion. Scandalous to say, at present it is a received principle, that, if out-voted by his colleagues in the Cabinet, a minister is bound to argue publicly in favor of that which he opposed privately, and to pretend approval. This undermines public honor, and sanctions ministerial hypocrisy.

Moreover, the executive, by claiming the initiative in legislation and pre-occupying the time of Parliament, have degraded the mass of the House, who are now called private members. It is the very policy whereby Augustus Cæsar reigned despotically under the cover and name of the Senate in Rome. The relative position of the Executive to Parliament is reversed by it. As the old Roman Senate used to set the policy, and intrust the execution of it to the Consuls, so ought Parliament to set the policy now, and give instructions to the Executive. Such in theory are all Parliamentary statutes. Parliament passes them; ministers and judges have to enforce them. In theory the legislative power is supreme: the executive and the judicial powers obey it.

Our constitutional lawyers talk grandly of the plenary supremacy of Parliament. But the executive here, as so very often elsewhere, has grasped at a double power, and does not relish subjection. Once it tried open defiance; now ministers are generally too prudent to talk high, yet they have a sharp scourge for Parliament if it dare to act the master. By dissolution they can inflict on every member a pecuniary fine, varying from £500 to £3000 or £4000, with contingent loss of his seat, if a vote be carried disagreeable to the minister. Lord John Russell called it a penal dissolution, when in 1856 Lord Palmerston inflicted it, in punishment of the vote which censured our bombardment of Canton—a bombardment executed without declaration of war, without communication with the Home Government, or even with the Chinese Emperor. The censure fell principally on Sir John Bowring; but a Prime Minister does not allow Parliament to censure one of his subordinates separately, especially for conduct towards foreign powers. This would entail personal responsibility for making a war; but they choose to have their responsibility only collective, and thereby nominal. To this end they construct a trade-union, unknown to the laws and constitution, they call it a "Cabinet:" it virtually supersedes the Privy Council, which they have perverted and degraded. Of old they used to sign their advice as Privy Councillors, then the Sovereign could make each responsible, In page 9 or out of office they bind themselves now to collective action against the Queen, and against Parliament, on such a question as "Who shall be Prime Minister?" In fact, if Parliament firmly control them, they make a collective strike, and dictate the conditions on which alone they will work. Such are the arts by which they prevent Parliamentary government from growing into a reality. Since each faction plays the same game, Parliament is paralysed, and will be so until ministers cease to have double functions.

It is pretended that the dissolution of Parliament at the will of a minister is a reasonable constitutional mode of allowing the country to declare its will on a special question, If a plebiscite were sincerely desired, the way is plain. Do not dissolve Parliament, but require of every constituency to vote Yes or No on the matter under debate, as: "Do you approve of the Chinese War?" But that would not at all have suited the minister. He wanted to punish the members for their vote. He did not desire to risk double defeat by a plebiscite. He knew that the Radicals were so hot after what they called "Parliamentary Reform," that they would not elect on the issue of the Chinese War; and when, by affecting to favor Reform, he had got a new House unpledged concerning war or peace, he scornfully declared that of course the electors had voted solely on the question, "What Prime Minister shall guide the destinies of England?"

Now I need to insist that this stifling and confusing of the public voice is no unfortunate accident. It is systematic. It recurs at every general election, as a result of that usurpation, or coup d'état, called the Septennial Act, which more than anything else takes the guidance of affairs out of the hands of electors, and makes elections a game of chance. Few of us keep in mind the utter illegitimacy of that usurping act which still oppresses us. Parliaments used to be elected year by year. Because Charles I. had dispensed with Parliaments for many painful years, the House, to guard against the recurrence of this royal misconduct, passed a very stringent law which, in compliment to Charles II., was softened into a new enactment, that Parliament shall never be intermitted for more than three years. This was strangely interpreted to mean that each Parliament must sit three continuous years; so triennial Parliaments became the rule, until a Parliament elected for three years voted that it would sit seven! Such is the Septennial Act, which is still nailed down upon us permanently, though the page 10 reasons pleaded for it were transitory. As legitimately may the existing Parliament vote that it will sit 21 years. There is little chance now that any Parliament, except under terror, will go back to the three years' term, if it be claimed separately. It would not please ministers so long as they can hold the scourge of a dissolution over the members; and it certainly will not please the members individually. As things now stand, at every general election we choose men to be our supreme authority for seven years. The moment after they are elected, they are for that long period our complete masters. We may humbly petition, or we may clamour with irregular demonstrations; the vassals oven of the Turkish Sultan may do either. But before the election, in providing for seven years, topics far too numerous crowd on each constituency. Even those who desire the same measures range them in a different order of value, so that they are liable to be split into small bands with different flags; or, to avoid this, they sacrifice all measures but one or two. In this way, Extension of the Suffrage, with perhaps the Ballot as a postscript, became the favorite ticket with Reformers as soon as the abolition of the Corn Laws was gained. Conservatism then, by opposing and delaying as long as possible the most popular of the national demands, keeps the Parliament irresponsible to the People, just as are the Ministers to the Parliament.

A stable despotism, like that of Russia, propped by several trained officers of departments, has many solid advantages for the lower people, as indeed Prussia has well shown from Frederick the Great downwards. Such a despotism dares to act against the aristocracy and the rich for the public good. But the despotism of an English ministry is so short-lived that it has no permanent stake in the country. I compare its despotism to that of a Turkish Pacha. Its own stability is the paramount object of its common interest, and it knows itself to be eminently unstable; hence it is the most timid of political clubs. It dares not to look far forward; it has to manage for the moment. It dreads to incur enmity with the powerful. It cuts down its legislative proposals, not to offend the squires, or the Church, or it may be, the Cardinals, or, not long back, the West India planters, the East India Company. Unless some grave national movement drives it on, it thinks most how to linger in office, not quite ignobly. "Rest and be thankful," is its advice, except when political capital is to be gained.

For any great measure, as Earl Russell said, a ministry needs a popular gale to carry the ship of State over the bar. page 11 But united national enthusiasm cannot come every day: Conservatism knows that perfectly well. We necessarily fret out and waste our energies in many different directions, chiefly owing to the seven years' term. Hence all our reforms, working against a stiff current, sail over the bar fifty or one hundred years too late. Martyrdoms innumerable have to be made, and attested in blue books, before Parliament can discover that something must be done; then, like a despotic prince who finds business too tiresome, it gives itself over to a favorite minister, makes him for the moment despotic in its stead. Believe me, I am not blaming the individual members; it is the system which overpowers them and condemns itself. The mats of business is so vast that every member is helpless. Unless you lessen that business, all reforms are delusive. If you overtask Nature, Nature will revenge herself. From wearied brains you will not get vigilance, discernment, and wisdom. In average sound intellects you will not find wide and various accomplisments.

I must ask you to consider in detail the duties of this hard-worked house. First, it has to control the action of the whole Executive Government, central or local, and to protect the public from the undue use of Executive power. Next, it has the sole right to direct the public taxation, and apportion the proceeds to definite purposes. Thirdly, it has to control the action of the ministry towards foreign powers, which includes treaties, alliances, and possible war. Fourthly, it has a similar function towards colonies and military posts, the army and navy. Fifthly, it is responsible for all India, with a population of two hundred and forty millions, and for the action of the Government alike towards Indians and towards foreign powers around India; and it is the only court of appeal to Indian princes who believe themselves wronged by the Queen's representatives. Sixthly, for nearly everything that needs expense, the ministry has to gain leave from Parliament. This is a very large head. Seventhly, no other authority can repeal bad law, or enact new laws for the general public. Eighthly, what are called Private Bills—that is, local or personal—are an enormous item of ordinary legislation. Ninthly, it ought to review our hereditary institutions and perpetually reform them, especially those which are founded on conquest, so as to harmonise them with universal justice. But, for this last arduous duty no one has time or energy.

It has been asked again and again, What business has Parliament with any Private, that is, Local Bill? I lately read that in the last session 96 General Bills were passed, and page 12 256 Private; which at once shows how immense would be the relief if Parliament wore rid of the latter. It is seldom that any Chamber, Board, or Court is willing to lessen its business; for this always appears to be a parting with power. But hero no real power will be given up. Whatever the local authority that relieves Parliament of Private Bills, a Parliamentary confirmation will be reserved, implying a contingent Veto. No severe struggle therefore need be anticipated from this cause, if the matter were gravely taken up. The question then arises, What local authority shall play a subsidiary part, and exercise the powers of a local Parliament.

To guide us in the reply, let us look back to the past of England, and also across our coasts to other nations.

In the past our chartered cities and legislative courts of our shires were in activity before Parliament existed. They then taxed themselves at their pleasure for all local purposes; but now, lawyers have ruled that they cannot do so except by permission of Parliament. Then they were the source whence Parliament drew its authority: now they are made out to exist and move, only by life derived from the central organ. Two centuries ago, each city kept at pleasure "trained bands" of its own, of which its Mayor had the command; now, a Minister in London is to hold everything military in his hand, even volunteers. The Municipalities were first stripped of powers and corrupted for centralised intrigue; next, when undervalued by ambitious men, their elections were managed in pothouses for personal objects, or elsewhere through malversation of the Crown were invaded by a local clique; finally, their work was derided and despised, and their weakness used as a pretence for weakening them still further. The old institutions of the shires are known only to students of ancient law: they have been overridden by justices of the peace, county lieutenants, or other functionaries. Two out of three Parliaments have been destroyed. From this general decay of local institutions centralization has grown up, so that we walk in the fatal steps of France, though following at a timid distance.

In contrast, look first at Germany. For ages she had, and again she has, a central legislative organ of the empire; but this never superseded very respectable subsidiary Parliaments, each appropriate to a smaller kingdom—Hanover, Baden, Brandenburg, Saxony, Bavaria, Wurtemberg, Austria, Silesia, Moravia, Bohemia, &c. Look again at Switzerland. Environed by ambitious neighbours far superior in power, her institutions page 13 have well stood the severe trial of time. She has her central Diet and Ministry vigorous enough; but also in her several Cantons she has local legislatures, each with well-trained soldiers, simply because every many is bound to learn the use of arms, as Englishmen used to be; therefore they need no standing army. Free Switzerland is respected by all and is feared by none. Italy also has local legislatures which belonged to independent states—Sicily, Naples, Piedmont, Tuscany, and so on, besides her National Parliament. Spain is similarly made up of constituent kingdoms, which have so keen a sense of their local rights that the statesmen who desire Union are somewhat afraid lest the limbs be too powerful for the centre. In Hungary notoriously the national spirit has been maintained for three centuries and a half against an unscrupulous and usurping dynasty solely by the independent energy of the local institutions. The Seven United Provinces of Holland similarly prove the vitality of freedom and good order when free local power is combined with a strong centre. And on a far greater scale we have an illustrious promise from Russia, and an illustrious example in the United States—a mighty monarchy and a mighty republic. Russia is divided into great regions, each transacting its local affairs, and destined to exercise in interior separate action in harmony with the general laws of the empire. The American Union started in that advanced stage. It is a cluster of some 37 States, each with its own legislature, for all which, and for the outlying Territories, the Federal Parliament also legislates. Contrast their condition with ours. Only of late has their population outrun ours. They have 38 legislative systems: we have one only. Surely our system is a barbarous simplicity. France alone goes beyond us. Nay, our Indian centralisation is worse still. No virtue, no wisdom in rulers can make up, when the defect of organs lays on them enormous duties.

The conditions under which Central and Local powers act harmoniously are simple and clear.

First. The Local powers must be to the Central like Planets round a Sun, each weak compared to the centre; therefore also not too few. If three equal powers are federated, the central force, which is only the sum of the parts, is dangerously weak. But if the separate parts (I will call them Provinces) are not very unequal, the union of ten or twelve would ordinarily be quite stable.

Next. For constant and rapid action, each side must know and loyally respect the duties of the other. In the American Union indeed, the Central Federal power has no rights or page 14 functions but those formally ceded to it by the States: with us any Province now organised would only have such rights as it received from Parliament.

All new unforeseen business would fall to the central power, which in all cases would undertake—1, The Public Defence; 2, Communications with Foreign Powers; 3, The Principal Highways; 4, Shores and Habours; 5, Crown Lands; 6, National Money and Weights; 7, National Taxes. Some other matters may be made either central or local.

When the necessity of lodging high powers in local authorities is pressed, one often gets the reply: "True we are moving vigorously for this—Birmingham, Leeds, Liverpool, Manchester, and many other towns have erected noble Town Halls and display a rising municipal spirit." This is all right; yet it is not at all to my purpose: the towns do not contain the counties, and cannot possibly attain dignity adequate to the need.

Our Provincial institutions ought to be on the scale of petty kingdoms—such as Tuscany, Sicily, Bohemia, Hanover—not of mere town population. Our impending Church and State questions will be solved in this island with least convulsion, if local variety of sentiment be allowed free play. The States of the American Union legislate for themselves even on Marriage and Inheritance and Penal Law, subject only to a few broad principles. This freedom gives them a great advantage over us in experimental legislation, for it is wiser to experiment on two million persons than on thirty million. If a law succeeds, the other States can imitate; if it fail, to undo is far easier. By dealing with high moral interests a Province acquires dignity. By a full power of taxation it is made impossible for the rich and fastidious to despise the local organs. If the province be on a sufficiently large scale, its pecuniary resources are able to reward the highest talents, and its concerns are adequate to engage life-services even from the active-minded and ambitious. All parts and ranks of the local community are then forced to take interest in local concerns. Each province becomes a normal school for Parliament, and a ladder by which all high talent of poor men may arise. If the population of a Province varied from two to three million, which I think sufficient, sons of noblemen would accept its high posts as an honor—no sinecure indeed, nor to be won without popular manners and sound talent.

Ireland on this scheme would have her own historical Four Provinces, though they cannot at present have an average page 15 population so high as two millions. The Principality of Wales is not at all too populous or too rich for one Province; indeed one might throw in, not only Monmouthshire, but Herefordshire and Shropshire. The Scottish Islands and Highlands might make one Province, and Southern Scotland (chiefly Lowlands) a second.

Thus seven Provinces are made up; and England would easily make seven more. The number fourteen would secure that none should be too strong for the centre, yet they would be strong enough and wealthy enough for their own necessary dignity. It is not at all difficult to suggest such a grouping of our English counties into seven Provinces as may fulfil the conditions; but I am now pressing the principle only.

To give content and stability, and save the need of after-struggles, the elective system should be self-adjusting. Beginning from equal electoral districts as near as may be, suppose forty thousand to be the normal population of each district, which is to send one member to the Provincial Chamber. Household franchise of course would be the rule, and I trust women householders would not be arbitrarily excluded. Perhaps three years as the term of election would be approved. Then in a province whose population is 2,400,000, the chamber would have sixty members. Each should receive from the provincial treasury a moderate salary, fixed by Parliament, to save the chamber from the odium of voting its own pay. Parliament would also by its contingent veto uphold all necessary imperial principles. Yet in the vast majority of cases the confirmation would become a mere form, and the relief to Parliament immense.

But a few words are needed concerning the relation of the town municipalities to the provincial chambers. To save complications from lodger franchises and shiftings of residence, every municipality of larger population than forty thousand might elect one or more members to its provincial chamber by the vote of its town council. Only on account of its huge size and other obvious reasons, it may be requisite to make London an eighth separate and independent Province, with special protection against nominal citizens.

Vast problems in English legislation must soon be under-taken by Parliament, if we are to avoid the greatest calamities.

Pauperism has become an English institution ever since the reign of Henry VIII.; that is, ever since the land-tenure was put upon its present footing. No country Can be healthy and page 16 thriving, where the land, which naturally and reasonably belongs to the nation and is under the rule of the State, is converted into the private ownership of wealthy grandees.

Perpetual invasions of common land have been allowed by a landlord Parliament to landlords, under whose regimen the rural districts are emptied out into the towns. Caledonia and Ireland have to be re-peopled. All the rural places must be made not only to maintain their new births, but to receive ample colonies from the towns. English fields will abundantly repay English capital which is now sent abroad.

A vast and beneficial revolution awaits us—a necessary revolution, which the upper classes, unless unwise, must promote. The Queen's Government, however it may be composed, covets soldiers. Landlords of old were bound to furnish troops to the King: they now have somewhat got the power of driving out men, and putting sheep or deer in their place. With an armed Europe confronting us, chronic alarms from Ireland, and need of constant recruits for India, great changes are inevitable.

We need legislators who can grasp broad principles, not mere administrators and men of routine. We want simple and short laws, not lengthy edicts. The qualities needed for a wise and energetic member of our Commons' House are now so great, that to judge of candidates is not a task for ordinary honest men. To argue from antiquity and precedent, is here a pernicious fallacy. What if the suffrage had been strictly universal under our Edwards or Henries? The functions of the House were then comparatively simple and easy: domestic experience and tradition, with sound good sense, sufficed. Ordinary house-holders may choose well the men who are to manage their local concerns, but not those who are to govern a great empire. As before observed, poor men will generally elect the rich and liberal. Where indigent voters have imperial power, an oligarchy of wealth is sure to bestride them. No such reforms as alone our routine parties talk of can give us the needful wise rulers. We want new principles and new organs for an imperial condition, as well as for our great increase in population. We have suffered much from postponing radical change, and the longer we postpone, the more we shall suffer. Our reforms have been always superficial, never radical.

What then do I propose to replace our Parliamentary system of election? Simply, that every Provincial Chamber shall send its delegates—virtually its ambassadors—to Parlia- page 17 merit, with instructions and with a proper salary, for a three years' term, but reserving the power to recall any delegate earlier by a two-thirds vote, and to replace him, like an ambassador, by a successor.

This would establish a real effective responsibility of every member of Parliament to his Provincial Chamber, yet would make his position more honorable than ever. He would be free from all popular canvassing—he would be elected without candidacy and without expense. The Chamber itself would look out for able servants. Confusion and intrigue would be lessened. Drunkenness and publicans, beer and bribery, would vanish from Parliamentary elections. There would be no dissolutions of Parliament—no convulsive interruptions of public-business. Meritorious men would be elected, and great wealth would never weigh too heavily. Attendance in Parliament ought to be enforced by Parliament itself, but each Chamber would be able to withdraw its delegates if they neglected public business. All difficulties about universal suffrage, and many other entanglements, would be swept away.

In the Provincial elections the stake played for would be far lower; therefore evils would not press in on at all the same scale as now. Of course each Chamber would be allowed delegates proportioned to the population of the Province. To allot one delegate for every 200,000 heads would give ten delegates to a Province of two millions, and send to Parliament about 160 members from the United Kingdom. Surely 160 picked men, with only half the business, would be immeasurably better than our present House.

Further, this scheme would settle our harassing Irish difficulties. English statesmen, whether Whig or Tory, will not endure an Irish Parliament, because no promises made by its advocates can bind it not to claim to be co-ordinate with the English Parliament. Co-ordination implies an equal right in regard to Foreign Policy, and virtually a double Foreign Office. Besides, the same ministers cannot be responsible to two Parliaments at once. I do not think that any such enthusiasm for an Irish Parliament is possible in England as shall overpower both Whig and Tory statesmen. Yet it is wholly inexpedient and unjust that Ireland should not have local legislation, especially when it is so very common with English members to a vow that they do not understand Irish questions. By means of four Provincial Chambers local legislation may be effectually given to Ireland, without any danger to imperial interests. The Parliamentary veto would abundantly protect Protestants from any unfair use of Catholic majority; and no local evils arising from inexpe- page 18 rience can compare with the substantial advantages which will accrue when Irishmen feel that Irish affairs are in their own hands. Those who have agitated for an Irish Parliament will of course be discontented and cavil at Four Chambers as an evasion; but when our sister island begins to experience benefit from the change, and sees that she is treated exactly as Great Britain in the matter, I fully expect that Irishmen will become as loyal, as intelligent, and as useful citizens in the United Kingdom as they are in the United States.

So much of Provincial Chambers and Parliamentary Elections. But as above urged, these changes will not lessen the importance of excluding the Queen's ministers from being elected to a seat and vote in Parliament.

Am I then proposing to degrade Ministers? Certainly not. They are not degraded in the Federal Government of the American Union. But two excellent results would follow not yet alluded to.

First. Ministers would be more stable in their places, and attain far higher skill in their separate departments. Our Executive now cannot possibly compete in accomplishment with that of Prussia or Russia. Men no sooner have gained experience in special duties than the Cabinet is liable to collective ejection from some general reasons of policy, and untried successors step into their places. To remove officers of the army or navy or the head of the police because of party politics, is hardly more absurd than to remove the Secretary or Viceroy of India, or the Head of the Post office, or the Home Secretary, or the Keeper of the Finances, because of some political question remote from his dutes. Whatever tends to the accomplishment and stability of ministers tends to their honor and to the public welfare.

Secondly. The removal of Ministers from Parliament, with free access for Chairmen of Committees to the documents of the Foreign Office, will alone enable us to get rid of that Secret Diplomacy which constantly involves us in war. This is a signally important topic. I have not time to dwell upon it. I will merely say, five wars out of six in my memory would have been prevented by a previous free debate in Parliament. But ministers stifle debate by withholding information, which always comes too late. Even now [1875] I fear we are drifting into a new Chinese War with incalculable contingencies.

A mere seat without vote and without election might be granted to ministers; but, for the danger of old habit yielding to them an initiation of business, each in his own department. page 19 For the dignity and independence of the House, and to help it to restrain ministers (which even in the United States is difficult enough), it is far safer to dispense with ministerial oratory, and make the Standing Committees the sole medium of communication between ministers and the House. Then the Chairmen would be raised in dignity; the Executive would not need to be good speakers—good administrators they ought to be, but principles and instructions would be dictated by the House.

In fact it would no longer be necessary that ministers should be all of one-party any more than were those of Queen Elizabeth. Party Government would no longer be identical with Parliamentary Government. The Government might then represent the whole nation to foreigners; now it represents one side only. The Marquis of Salisbury would not then be ejected from the post of Indian Secretary for a difference of opinion with Mr. Disraeli about English suffrage. Nay, the very reasonable regulation might be adopted that every minister's diploma be inscribed with the words by appointment of the Queen, and by consent of the House. Then the House would be able to make each minister separately responsible to it by withdrawing its consent, and if the Cabinet struck as a body, the House would know how to punish the ringleaders effectually.

I have left an enormous topic, vital to our safety, untouched, because it concerns the reorganisation of India, not of England; yet I must ask leave to allude to it, since it is a new and weighty argument for not delaying to reorganise England. Ever since the last renewal of the Company's Charter in 1853 very serious grievances of India have been so testified as to be undeniable. Yet they remain unredressed. Parliament, by its empty benches when an Indian appeal is brought before it, passes sentence on itself as an unfit tribunal; hence it is not likely, while constituted as it is, to reorganise India. Will the ministry do the work by its own free initiative? It might, but for twenty-two years it has not. I believe that it fears the Indian Civil Service too much. But delay is our great danger. The fatal words, too late, may suddenly ring in our ears. Give quickly, give graciously, without compulsion, and you earn gratitude; delay, and you may be scorned. If it were possible for us to earn Indian loyalty, it would be our duty to quit the soil of India as quick as may be. But it is certain that the Princes will be loyal as soon as they find their honors and page 20 estates safe, like those of English dukes, under the shield of an impartial Judicial Court; the People will be loyal when their crying grievances are removed. Of course it is not my place to suggest How? Sir Bartle Frere (I do not strike out these words in a second edition, but the reader must not forget that they were written before the wicked Zulu war), no wild enthusiast or democrat, has promulgated an elaborate scheme for Indian internal gavernment. Whenever the Supreme power of England pronounces that India herself must take a large share in governing India, there will be no lack of talent to show How. That which we lack is Will to undertake the task, and unless we get a Parliament with fresher eye and less preoccupied, the danger is, I think, very great that England may be wise Too Late, with calamity on a prodigious scale. Our vexatious and michievous jealousies of Russia turn altogether on the belief of Indian disaffection; but with India loyal to the Queen, fear of Russia would be an insanity.

Finally, concerning the House of Lords, I briefly say, the opinion grows rapidly, that to have two Legislative Houses is a fundamental mistake; that an Upper House is generally an obstruction, never a safeguard. If this opinion prevail, then the thirty or forty Peers who love public business and have high talents for it, would have a far nobler career in the elective House than where they speak, as now, to a scanty audience. They would have an accession of honour without the unpleasantness of a popular canvass, if freely selected as delegates (or, I may say, ambassadors) from Chambers of such dignity as would preside over our Provinces.